Special Report

September 3, 2023

Why Students Loan Scheme may not start as scheduled – Investigation

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By Adesina Wahab

The September 2023 date announced for the takeoff of the Students Loan Scheme may not be feasible given some knotty issues yet to be resolved, investigation by Vanguard newspaper  has revealed.

Among the issues that may delay the start of the scheme are complaints by some stakeholders, especially parents and students, about the stringent conditions attached to accessing the money, the period of repayment, the non-inclusion of students in some levels of the admint of the scheme, the composition of members of the board that will administer the loans, among others.

While signing the law that set up the scheme, President Bola Tinubu had given September 2923 as the take off date of the scheme.

It was gathered that the federal government is taking another look at the law setting up the scheme with a view to reworking it to address the concerns raised by the stakeholders.

Also, the issue of securing funding for the Bank that is expected to be set up to disburse the loans is generating concerns.

The FG is proposing one percent of federal revenue to do so, but some are saying that may not be enough.

The President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, Comrade Usman Barambu, while appearing before a committee of the House of Representatives in Abuja, faulted the conditions attached to obtaining the loans, saying they were stringent.

Barambu said, “Student loan is for us and in the board, there is no student representation. The board only captured NUC sidelining the Polytechnics and Colleges of Education. They should all be included for fairness and equity.

“Also the method of payment should be looked into as most students are not able to find their ground financially two years after graduation,  it should be revised to 4 or 5 years. The Act also gives no room for forgiveness in cases of death, that should also be looked into.”

The steps to access the loan are: Students must apply to the Chairman of the Bank through their respective institutions upon satisfaction of the following conditions:

(i) Student must have secured admission into any public Nigerian university, Polytechnic, COE or TVET school

Applicant’s income or family income must be less than N500,000 per annum. Applicant must provide at least two civil servants as guarantors: of not less than level 12 years in service; or a lawyer with at least 10 years post-call experience; a judicial officer; or a Justice of Peace.

Students who have defaulted in previous loans; found guilty of exam malpractices, felony, drug offenses will not be considered.

Students with parents who have defaulted in respect of previous loans will not be considered. All Applications will be submitted through the Students Affairs Office of each Institution via a list of all qualified applicants from the institution accompanied by a cover letter signed by the Vice Chancellor or Rector or the head of the institution.

For the repayment, parents under the aegis of the National Parent Teacher Association of Nigeria, NAPTAN, through the National President, Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, said the repayment period was too short. “They gave beneficiaries two years after graduation and the completion of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, scheme to start repaying. Nobody is talking about jobs for them to generate incomes to begin repayment. Where the beneficiary is self employed, he shall remit 10% of his total profit monthly to the students loan account to be prescribed by the Bank. How will the profit, if any, be determined?.”

Also speaking at the Abuja summit, the  Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, Professor Is-haq Oloyede, tasked the lawmakers on the feasibility of the loan covering other areas.

He stressed the need to review the Act to cover cost of other things beyond school fees as students now pay more for accommodation, feeding and transportation.

He also canvassed the development of a conducive environment for the repayment of the loan, even as he noted that the Act should be calibrated to factor in market instability, inflation pandemics among others, adding that the loan should not be one amount at all times and that guarantees should be inserted so that it would be above inflation rate.

For the funding of the scheme, the Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Muhammad Nami, opined that the FIRS is committed to working with the parliament on the project. The revenue collection body maintained that as soon as the mandate is given, the funding would be made available.

The body, however, expressed concern about the 1% federal government revenue meant for the funding and suggested that instead of federal allocation only, the National Assembly should seek amendments that would allow the funding to be drawn from a federation account where all states could contribute to.

Speaking on behalf of the Speaker of the House, Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, said that the summit was aimed at addressing the issues emanating from the Student Loan Act 2023 – a law that promotes more equitable access to quality higher education for our children.

“This is quite critical given that education is considered a fundamental right in Nigeria. The legislators as custodians and defenders of citizens’ rights, play an essential role in safeguarding this right. This informed the initiation and passage of the Student Loan Act by the 9th House of Representatives.

“The purpose was to create seamless access to credit facilities for quality higher education. The legislation finds its relevance in the recognition that one of the key barriers to accessing higher education is the high cost associated with tuition fees, accommodation, textbooks, and other educational expenses.

“Many talented and deserving students are unable to afford these costs, leading to a significant disparity in educational opportunities. As a result, we are witnessing a situation where only a privileged few can access quality higher education, while the majority struggle to make ends meet.

He, however, said concerns have been raised about the conditions for accessing the loan as contained in the Act, hence the need for a review.

” It is feared that these conditions might hamper the good intentions of the legislature, which is to create access for as many Nigerians as possible who desire quality higher education. It is due to this fact that the summit was convened to harness the opinions of stakeholders and experts on the improvement of the Act, ” he added.